Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing All-New X-Men 33, originally released Ocotber 29th, 2014.
Taylor: A sense of belonging is important for our day-to-day lives. The city we live in, the place we work, where we sleep, and who we interact with are in some way or another based on our desire to feel we belong. Now, whether this sense borders on the quasi-mystical or is a simple impulse to feel comfortable is unimportant. Rather, humans being social animals just want to belong to part of the whole. When you’re a mutant, however, finding a place where you feel that sense of belonging becomes all the more difficult. It’s hard to relate to others when they very may well despise you (and also when they don’t know what it’s like to levitate and the like). The All-New X-Men, more so than their regular X-Men counterpart,s know this quandary, as they’re displaced in time along with being displaced socially. So what happen’s when their sense of belonging is stretched even further?
The All-New X-Men find themselves suddenly in different places. Ice-Man is fighting mole men; Laura and Angel are at the birthplace of Weapon X; Beast in Latveria; and Jean is with Miles Morales of Ultimate Spider-Man fame. Why each is in this particular place is a mystery, but they do know that something is wrong. The issue follows their various adventures with the climatic reveal of the X-Men of Earth 1610.
This issue embodies a lot of the things that are both the calling card of this series and the reason why I look forward to it every month. More so than a lot of titles I read, I feel like an issue of All-New can go in basically any direction. Sometimes that’s for the best and sometimes that’s not so great. Still, if anything, this series is unafraid to be zany in the best possible way.
Issue 33 is no exception to this rule. The same sense of endless possibilities rules this issue and is multiplied several times over by splitting up our team each into a different locale. There are several things to like about this move as each mini-story featuring an X-(Wo)Man reflects the characters personality. I found myself laughing the whole time during Ice-Man’s romp in the underground with the mole men. First: what? Did I miss something? What do mole men have to do with anything? Turns out it doesn’t matter because it’s just so gosh-dern fun. Writer Brian Michael Bendis has his usual wit on display here and is spoon feeding Ice-Man great lines like this one:
Astilasagna. That’s one I’ll have to start using on my friends. They’ll hate me for it, but that’s kind of the point. This kind of tom-foolery is Ice-Man’s forte and while it sometimes comes off as a bit forced in an issue, here it’s the perfect response to fighting giant moles. Add to this the receding “yesssssss” and it’s comedic gold and rendered so perfectly here.
Similarly, the tone of Jean story is much more somber, matching her character. Jean, as we all know, is in no way as happy-go-lucky as Ice-Man. This shift in character focus is mirrored by how Bendis presents this section of the story. Throughout, it’s serious and almost a little sad. Aside from a failed comedic aside when Jean first makes her appearance, this is pretty reflective story telling. While driving to the location of the Jean Grey school (at least in her universe), Jean reflects on how she and her teammates belong virtually nowhere in any universe of time.
It’s a sad realization of the facts and one I hadn’t really considered before. Things are all well and good (relatively) when you’re an X-Man. But when you belong to no time or place, how can you be all that happy? And at this point, aren’t the All-New team too far removed from their lives in the past to ever go back? Basically they have nowhere or no time to call their own. This of course is compounded by their being mutants. Basically, they are unique and alone in the entire Marvel Universe.
Drew, for all that I said I enjoyed about this issue, there were parts I didn’t like. That part where Jean appears in Ganke and Mile’s dorm room? Pretty bad when you considering it’s sole purpose was to serve as a base for sex jokes. Your thoughts? Also, Mahmud Asrar’s pencils are a little wonky a few times throughout the issue. Did that distract you like it did me?
Drew: I think the biggest downside for me was another of those calling cards of this series: Bendis’ seemingly unslakable thirst for mashing his series together. I know, I know, I wasn’t complaining about that habit when All-New X-Men was crossing over with Uncanny X-Men (which, let’s admit, at least makes some sense), or even Guardians of the Galaxy (which I’ll be the first to admit makes infinitely less sense), and while my discomfort here certainly comes in part from not reading Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, I think this particular crossover is different in a number of ways. The biggest difference is that this isn’t just a crossover with Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man — this issue alone also introduces Victor Van Damme and the Ultimate X-Men — this is a crossover with the whole Ultimate Universe. That requires significantly more buy-in (and room for confusion) than any of the other crossovers we’ve seen with this series. Again, this reflects my own unfamiliarity with the Ultimate Universe, but being unfamiliar with an entire universe is decidedly more daunting than being unfamiliar with a given comic book series.
But maybe that’s okay? Recognizing all of these elements from the Ultimate Universe might let us in on some dramatic irony, but not recognizing them puts us firmly in the place of our intrepid heroes, so there might not be a wrong amount of familiarity. Subtle hints like the use of lowercase lettering throughout this issue can tip us off that our characters are all in the same place, but that’s not even all that important to know at this juncture.
That kind of X-Men-focused perspective on this issue lends to an easy-to-follow thread, as each of our heroes is presented with something unexpected, but it kind of breaks down in the Jean sections, largely because Bendis still wants to treat it like a crossover with Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man. Miles and Ganke hog valuable screen time, and while it’s charming enough, it’s not what anyone picks up All-New X-Men for — as Taylor noted, it’s really just there to make some easy sex jokes. I tend to be a sucker for terrible sex jokes, but these all come at the expense of anything resembling believable dialogue.
Having been a teenage dude, I can assure you that nobody in the Multiverse would ever refer to themselves as “a teenage young man”. It’s both awkward and redundant, and while I appreciate the sentiment — I certainly wouldn’t have wanted a cute girl reading my thoughts when I was a teenager — this is the second time this issue makes the same joke. Why are these guys so aware of how different their thoughts are from non-teenage young men?
In spite of my problems with it, I actually found a lot to like in this issue. I’m particularly enamored of the way Bendis is developing Warren and Laura’s relationship — she’s maybe even more bristly now that they’ve shared…whatever it is that they shared. Touchingly, Warren seems almost heartbroken when Laura and James Hudson are having their little standoff.
There’s a lot to like in this issue, but there’s also plenty to be frustrated by. In true Bendis fashion, the end reveal has me certain that more will happen next time. At the very least, we’ll get to see Bobby face off against a giant mole monster — who could ask for more than that?
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The bit with every boy Jean meats having dirty thoughts on their mind is kind of an Ultimate Universe running gag. Almost the same exact scene happened when Ultimate Peter Parker first met Ultimate Jean Grey. This won’t change whether the scene is funny or well-written, but that’s why Bendis spends so much time on it — it’s a shout-out to all his Ultimate Universe fans.
Oof, that actually makes me like it less. Here I thought he was wasting time on humor, but instead it’s an inside joke I don’t get? Maybe my ignorance of the Ultimate Universe is more of a handicap than I realized…
Drew and I were having an interesting conversation last night about the role of the Original X-Men in the current Marvel Universe. Drew points out that they’ve now made the rounds through all of Bendis’ other books, but aside from a few pieces here and there (Havoc’s “M Word” speech from Uncanny Avengers, The Arms of the Octopus, Battle of the Atom), these characters are pretty well self-contained. We didn’t see these X-Men in Age of Ultron or Infinity or Original Sin (and I don’t believe they’re in AXIS).
So, what’s the deal? I remember hearing Tom Brevort at C2E2 say that they had been looking to bring the original X-Men into the present for a while now, and the death of Xavier was the right moment to do it. But now that they’re here, they don’t feel all that much like part of the universe. Rather, they almost feel like tourists in the universe (or multiverse, as it were).
I always wonder about the relationships between the comics and the movies, and we’re starting to get some evidence that Marvel Comics is making specific moves to support the characters that appear in their own films, while not supporting those that appear in others (i.e., cancelling Fantastic Four, not inventing any new mutants, repositioning Inhumans, etc.). I wonder if this isn’t sort of a way to take new X-Men fans and weave them gradually into the rest of the Marvel Universe. There certainly isn’t an effort to make X-Men comics easy to jump into the way that the new Thor, Cap and Iron Man series are. I mean, christ, the new publishing mandate is called Avengers NOW!, right?
Hey mate, what did mean with Astilasagna?
It’s a play on “hasta la vista”.
I was also thrown by the spelling. At first I thought he was casting a spell or something. The joke would be clearer if it were spelled “hasta lasagna,” but even then, I kinda want to see a tilde above the n (as that’s what the spanish from the previous word would dictate). REGARDLESSS, it’s weird that it’s one word instead of two… or even three.
Yeah, it’s definitely not how I would spell it. I got “ah-STEEL-ah-ZAG-na” when I read it the first time. There’s no reason not to spell it “hasta lasagna”.